No happy ending in sight

FOUR new Chief Pleas members will take their seats when the assembly sits next month and I wish them – and their 24 fellow conseillers – an enjoyable and fruitful term of office.

Head teacher Sarah Cottle and some Sark School pupils singing before The Avenue Christmas lights were switched on last week.
Head teacher Sarah Cottle and some Sark School pupils singing before The Avenue Christmas lights were switched on last week.

FOUR new Chief Pleas members will take their seats when the assembly sits next month and I wish them – and their 24 fellow conseillers – an enjoyable and fruitful term of office.

Whether it will be a happy one may well be determined by the amount of vilification and personal criticism they receive if they have the temerity to raise their heads above the parapet. In the light of that, and without exception, they and those who stood unsuccessfully in last week’s election are deserving of thanks.

As with any legislature, they will have important decisions to make, not least in relation to the implementation or otherwise of recommendations contained in the report by former Whitehall civil servant Belinda Crowe.

Inevitably there will be a temptation to take the easy route, as they are frequently urged to do from certain quarters, and implement Ms Crowe’s recommendations in their entirety. Economically, that will lead to a significant increase in the cost of administration – she advocates a chief secretary and two policy professionals – and, with ideas about other revenue streams sadly lacking, that means tax increases.

However, the implementation of the recommendation that reduces drastically the number of committees is at least as significant in a political context. It would see the current number of close on 20 (including two sub-committees) cut to just three.

I say that simply because, cynical political observer that I have been for almost four decades, experience suggests it is a good deal easier for a government led by three committee chairmen to be swayed and/or influenced by vested interests than it is for a government led by three times that number, which would be the figure involved if the number of committees were halved.

I have no doubt at all that others think along similar lines, but will not thank me for mentioning it.

Then of course the 28 conseillers will be urged to introduce full-time policing and border controls from Guernsey and – in a line which is being frequently and actively pursued – with the automatic conclusion that ‘Sark must pay’.

Quite how 24/7 policing at hundreds of thousands of pounds a year will benefit Sark is for the moment lost on this former police officer.

Similarly, how at least similar amounts on the salaries, equipment and infrastructure essential for Sark to accept fare-paying passengers from French ports will be translated into revenue is also lost. Even if financed by a £1 per head visitor tax, it would need at the very least double the number of visitors we currently welcome to pay for one border control officer – and many more than one will be needed.

I don’t know whether this is rocket science or not, but I doubt that anyone need be particularly bright to think – perhaps wrongly, but it’s the perception which is important – that the objective of all this suggested expenditure may well be to drag Sark to its economic knees. Given that it’s the panto season, cue for a knight in shining armour to enter stage left, galloping to the rescue of our depleted reserves. Or perhaps even two of them.

The trouble is that if the events of the last 12 months are anything to go by then this is not a fairy story and, so far at least, no happy ending is in sight.

This is the last column of 2012 because there won’t be one next Friday. Sark is gearing itself up for Christmas as only Sark can, with Christmas lights along The Avenue, carol singers out and about and the promise of a free bar at most business premises on Christmas Eve.

I hope Sark, its residents and readers of this weekly offering – no matter who and where they are – have a peaceful, prosperous and healthy Christmas and New Year.

  • The email address for comment is fallesark@sark.net.

Comments for: " No happy ending in sight"

Larky

Merry Christmas Phil!

The SEM/SNL (they are inseparable) tactic of ensuring that no sane business or knight in any sort of armour would want to come and set up on Sark is something that Colin Kniveton needs to acknowledge and urgently address, if he is to have credibility.

As you say, hiding behind the Crowe imposition may be a tempting and easy way out, but did we ever learn details of any of Ms Crowe's previous advisory missions to give us confidence that she called this situation correctly?

Spending other folks' money is easy.

Claire M

Seasons Greetings Mr Falle. Whilst there are occasional dissenting noises, most Islanders regard you as one of the more honest brokers of news of life on besieged Sark, with its many trials and tribulations.

If only the Barclays had the common decency and good sense to put you in charge of the Great "sack 'em all" Dictator as editor of the SNL.

It's exhausting trying to track the machinations of the Sark Saga. But at least after John Sweeney's staggering revelations of the distance between the story according to Delaney and the evidence of camera and mike, most of those under siege can be relieved that the SNL lost any last vestige of credibility.

So no wonder the latest "Christmas Cheer" edition has come out blazing away - denying everything, "borrowing" BBC images, and being ever more economical with reality, in the finest traditions of the propaganda machines of those fascist regimes that seem to fascinate its editor.

It's not going to be a happy new year for some.

Brian

Maybe it is not such a bad idea to have border controls for Sark after all. It may be expensive but the outcome could have far reaching results.

For instance, the authority would have absolute control over:-

Who could come in or out of the island.

It could even extend to controlling who actually could have residence on the island with the provision of deportation of undesirables.

Now there's a thought.

Razzer

Sark doesn't need a costly border force to deport undesirables, just a big enough trebuchet.

Paddy

The poll-topping election of the "listening" and relatively non-controversial Sandra Williams ought to give some hope for 2013.

This implies that most Sarkees still regard Tourism as their saviour opportunity, so will Sandra be honest enough to spell out that the present island set-up may never be viable unless Sark is ready to sacrifice some of the things that help make Sark unique, and that the old guard regard as sacrosanct??

The one thing that the world remarks upon at every discussion of Sark is the absence of "normal" cars. All else might have to be negotiable.

In any situation of confrontation, there are “deals” to be done. And the first order of play should be to take the Bs on one side and point out the SNL is a chronic deterrent to either tourism or the arrival of supporting businesses. Once the inexcusable SNL goes for good, and its editor sent on a charm course, then maybe many contest matters might become negotiable. Possibly in some instances, subject to an island-wide consensus referendum.

Another thing for Ms Williams' agenda: encourage the Bs divest themselves of at least one of their hotels - maybe to a relevant global chain with a network of "feeder" establishments. The Ritz is very nice, but probably full of guests who are “too posh to pedal”.

Then if she could seal a deal and charm the Bs into using some of their VAST Littlewoods windfall rebate to fund a proper power and communication cable... and a well-equipped medical facility that will benefit islanders and visitors alike...

The people of Sark may not be as far from a thoroughly "good deal" that suits all parties as most people assume